Re­port con­firms rip-off

ACCC re­port ex­poses city-coun­try divide

Isis Town and Country - - Front Page - By MATTHEW MCIN­ER­NEY

RE­GIONAL mo­torists are be­ing ripped off at the bowser with Small Busi­ness Min­is­ter Bruce Bill­son say­ing ques­tions about re­gional prices were still unan­swered.

An Aus­tralian Con­sumer and Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion re­port re­leased last week showed re­gional driv­ers were pay­ing con­sid­er­ably more for their fuel than city coun­ter­parts.

It is for that rea­son Mr Bill­son has asked the ACCC to scru­ti­nise “price anom­alies, price goug­ing and other ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties” at re­gional petrol re­tail­ers.

“Sep­a­rate to this quar­terly re­port, I have also asked the ACCC to con­duct spe­cific re­gional mar­ket stud­ies to seek to ex­plain both the size of the un­usual price dif­fer­en­tials, as well as the slow­ness in re­duc­ing re­gional fuel prices as the in­ter­na­tional price falls,” he said.

“We have done this be­cause we share the con­cerns of con­sumers and busi­ness re­gard­ing the mys­ter­ies of fuel pric­ing.

“The first re­gional lo­ca­tion which will look at pos­si­ble price anom­alies, price goug­ing, and other mar­ket ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, will be an­nounced soon.”

It is un­der­stood three un­named re­gional lo­ca­tions will be in­ves­ti­gated per year, while a sep­a­rate study on dif­fer­ent types of fuel will be com­mis­sioned.

The Quar­terly Re­port on the Aus­tralian Petroleum In­dus­try showed an al­most 10c/L dif­fer­ence in the price of un­leaded fuel be­tween Bris­bane and Bund­aberg.

Brent crude oil prices dropped 50% in the six months from July to De­cem­ber 2014, fall­ing to their low­est lev­els since De­cem­ber 2008.

The re­port said the price could have fallen fur­ther if the Aus­tralian dollar had not de­creased.

But it still does not ex­plain the dif­fer­ence be­tween metropoli­tan and re­gional prices, a topic of which Mem­ber for Hin­kler Keith Pitt has pre­vi­ously ex­pressed dis­be­lief.

In De­cem­ber Mr Pitt re­ferred to the dif­fer­ence as “high­way rob­bery”, adding last week it was clear re­gional mo­torists were be­ing ripped off, and con­firmed he had asked Hin­kler be one of the re­gions in­ves­ti­gated.

“I think (the re­port) clearly demon­strates how they are be­ing ripped off,” he said.

“I re­quested (Mr Bill­son) con­sider Hin­kler as one of those lo­ca­tions. As a Na­tion­als mem­ber re­gional ar­eas are our con­cern.”

Mr Pitt said the ACCC had a range of pow­ers if re­tail­ers were guilty of ar­ti­fi­cially ad­just­ing prices, and pointed to Coles’ $10 mil­lion fine for “sup­plier mis­treat­ment” late last year as an ex­am­ple.

Mr Pitt said the “du­op­oly” of Coles and Wool­worths had too much price power.

Ear­lier RACQ spokesper­son Re­nee Smith said there was a “dis­crim­i­na­tion against re­gional mo­torists”, and called on the ACCC and Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to act.

“The gov­ern­ment may have given the ACCC more pow­ers to mon­i­tor prices, but when will they give the ACCC the power to do some­thing about price goug­ing?” Ms Smith said.

The ACCC mon­i­tors prices in all cap­i­tal cities and about 180 re­gional lo­ca­tions. Ac­cess the re­port at www.accc.gov.au.

Small Busi­ness Min­is­ter Bruce Bill­son We share the con­cerns

PHOTO: BLAINEY WOOD­HAM

NO AN­SWERS: Dis­par­ity in fuel pric­ing has led to ques­tions.

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